CCIE R&S Written – Epic Fail

It’s been a long time, eh? I’ve spent the last month or so with my nose down in a book and my mouse in a Google+ Hangout window studying my rear off for the CCIE R&S Written. Too bad I didn’t pass it.

The exam consisted of 77 questions over a 2 hour window. That’s plenty of time to finish; I think I had 48 minutes left when I was through, so time wasn’t a problem. There were only 2 or 3 questions where I was totally lost, so the technology wasn’t a problem. The big problem, like always, was the usual crap questions that are in these exams. Some didn’t provide all the required information. Some were impractical examples of deployments you would never use in the field. Some were on deprecated technologies. Hell, I had one that involved CatOS. Really? CatOS? Since I only failed by about 2 questions (like I always do), these shenanigans are magnified in my mind. It really irks me how these exams are being done; foggy questions don’t really measure ability.

I did have one great advantage last week that I’ve never had – I took the exam at Cisco Live and had 489247248 CCIEs around me willing to help. Since I took the exam on Sunday, I was able to ask people face-to-face for advise on what I need to do to pass, and the consensus was that I needed to practice how to answer questions the way Cisco wants you to answer them since the material wasn’t really that hard. The suggested next steps ran the gamut, too. Some suggested just firing from the hip for answers – the whole “your first guess is always right” theory. Others suggested that I just brute force the exam. Still others even suggested brain dumps along with the idea that we’ve all put in our time and effort already and that the terrible questions shouldn’t be what’s holding us back.

You guys know me by now.  I’m definitely not going to give up or anything stupid like that.  I’ll probably take a week off to recover from Cisco Live and then head back to the studies.  I’ll do the usual brute force method, but I’m going to grab a copy of the Boson exams (which were also suggested) to supplement.  I would guess that I’ll try again around the first of August, but we’ll see.

Send any beatin’ sticks questions my way.

Aaron Conaway

I shake my head around sometimes and see what falls out. That's what lands on these pages. If you have any questions, the best way to contact me is through Twitter at @aconaway.

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12 comments for “CCIE R&S Written – Epic Fail

  1. Lindsay Hill
    July 18, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    I used the Netmasterclass practice Q’s when I was doing the written – they seemed to be of a similar standard to the actual exam.

    I also saw those CatOS questions, and, like you, went WTF? At least the CatOS part wasn’t really relevant on the one I had.

    Good luck

  2. July 18, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    First of all, sorry to hear you failed. I guess we’ve all had our share of that and it’s very annoying and sometimes even discouraging. I’m sure you’ll do well next time as I know how hard you’ve been working at it. Hard work eventually does pay off.

    Secondly, did I read you right? Someone at Cisco Live seriously suggested brain dumps? Or could they have been joking with you?

    Lastly, what exactly does it mean to take it by “brute force”?

    Well anyway, I’m looking to take mine by end of Novemeber so hopefully I can learn something from you. 😉

  3. Scott McDermott
    July 18, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Dude, missing by 2 is hardly epic fail. You’re just frustrated, and understandably so. I’m confident that if you practice with the Boson tests, you’ll get it on the next try. They’re guaranteed, right? 🙂

  4. July 19, 2011 at 5:00 am

    The questions and answers of the exam are very vague. I also found that the quality of the images and diagrams was way to bad for a 350$ exam.

    I would also recommend to take the first guess, because it is most of the time the right choice. At least it worked out for.

    I have used NMC’s and Boson’s products to prepare for the exam. However I prefer Boson’s product, because the questions are more recent and they have nice references for further reading material in the answers.

  5. July 19, 2011 at 5:29 am

    No sooner did I ask you if you passed, I saw this post in my rss feed!

    Well, you have a good attitude and yes, Cisco asks stupid questions in stupid ways. I don’t know how they come up with their questions but I swear some of them are there just to frustrate us.

    Keep it up, I know you will pass.

    P.S. I use all the boson test software, it is great and really really helpful.

    Good Luck!

  6. Raphael
    July 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    I also took and failed the 350-001 on Sunday at Live. This was my second fail, first by a few points and this one by about 50.

    Later I went down to the have a “chat” with the one of the proctors who was kind and let me know that exam taking is an art, you have to get into the thought process and think like the exam.

    I also chatted with a old coworker who is a trainer and takes this exam all the time – his reaction was that the exam is easy and passes it all the time.

    So I guess if you work with multiple vendors and see many technologies you’ll have a harder time than someone who just sees Cisco.

    Good luck on your next try!

  7. July 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    I actually passed the Written the day after you took it. I agree that some of the questions were in the WTF realm, but I didn’t feel like any of the questions didn’t provide the information needed to answer it, it was just a little tough sometime figuring out what they were getting at.

    I do recommend the Boson MaxSim product, it was pretty good. And if you have a copy of the CCIE R&S Cert guide from odom, use the code provided to unlock the boson exam for that text. Those questions are *excellent*. They’re hard because almost all of them are ‘choose all that apply’, and they don’t tell you how many apply, so you have to evaluate every single answer for whether or not it’s correct. This helped me greatly when it came to evaluating the questions the actual Written threw at me. Between the Odom book questions, and the Boson questions, I felt it was very representative of the actual exam, but only if you take the time to figure out why you missed the questions you missed.

  8. July 19, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I totally agree with you on the questions. I can’t stand how Cisco asks questions. Since it’s a Cisco cert, I can’t blame them too much for doing troubleshooting “their” way, even though it’s not always the “best” way.

    My biggest problem is thinking too much into the question. I have to learn to keep it simple. If they don’t give you the info, assume the defaults. {{that’s me trying to convince myself, not you}} 🙂

    Enjoy the rest, and then kick a$$! Good luck!

  9. Owen
    July 31, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    There definately is an art to taking Cisco exams, and more often than not you’ve got to deal with scenarios/approaches that you would never encounter in the real world. I find it helps to take the MacGyver approach – i.e. think about how you would do it if the sensible option was taken away.

    The braindumps thing does my head in… I was recently speaking to an ex-Cisco account manager who was actually suprised to hear that I’m NOT using Testking to prepare for the R&S written and that she had been told by several CCIEs (including Cisco empolyees) that “no-one would ever pass the written exams without braindumps”.

    WTF? Yes, the questions can be stupid, but to condone cheating? I’d rather have to take a couple of passes at the exam and actually earn my pass mark thanks. I’d also be very interested to see the correlation between people who use braindumps for the written and people who don’t pass the lab on the first try.

    Anyhoo, off the soapbox now. Sitting the written tomorrow (first attempt), if I pass I’ll share my approach

  10. Owen
    August 2, 2011 at 3:57 am

    OK, passed with a score of 807, so unless I’m one calculating SOB you know I didn’t use a braindump 😉

    I used the Cisco Press CCIE R&S Cert Guide (4th Ed) as my primary study tool. I read it cover to cover, then used the memory tables for revision and then used the Boson pratice exams on the companion CD. As mentioned by Dayne the Boson exams are a great prep tool. They are written in a very Cisco-esque fashion and I found them much harder than the actual exam so, in my opinion, if you’re passing these then you’re ready for the real thing (to give you an idea, I was only scoring around 60 on the Boson exams).

  11. August 8, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Sorry to hear Aaron. This was the toughest exam for me so far, I’ve yet to fail a Cisco exam. I agree that this is probably Ciscos least cared about test, maybe due to volume compared to NA/NP level tests. Diagrams were awful, some questions didn’t have a correct answer. I can also recommend using Boson to prepare, I found the questions to be similar difficulty to real exam and explanations are very good. Good luck with next attempt.

  12. Darryl Robinson
    August 21, 2011 at 5:58 am

    I appreciate your fortitude in sharing this experience, it really shows your determination. I look forward to hearing about the lessons learned when you pass this test.

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